A pivotal time in life
Seniors at Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools will don graduation gear and receive their high school diplomas this Saturday. It’s a ceremonial ritual marking the end of one chapter and the start of another. Some will continue their education, possibly moving out on their own for the first time, and others will enter the workforce either due to a lack of opportunity or desire, or a combination of the two. It’s a pivotal point in a young person’s life, and an especially difficult time for those still struggling to decide if continued education is the right path. Terrifyingly expensive tuition is enough to make you pause. In Colorado, the class of 2013 graduated with average student loan debt north of $24,000, according to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success. That’s a substantial bet for those still searching for a career that fuels their passion.
Passion is typically overlooked in the college discussion. More commonly, people point to the financial benefits that come with a college degree. As the U.S. News and World Report noted in an online post in June 2014, “Americans 25 to 32 with a college degree made an average of $17,500 more annually than their peers with just a high school degree in 2012, whereas in 1979 they made just $9,690 more.” Additionally, the unemployment rate among college graduates is roughly half of the rate among their degree-less peers.
But for those on the fence, college can lead to the discovery of a career that not only pays better, but also makes them happier. At least that was my experience. A week after my high school graduation I went to work for a Budweiser distributor. It was a summer job, and it was a good one. I was working steady hours and pulling in more money than I knew what to do with. It did not take long for me to question my decision to attend the University of Cincinnati that fall.
“Why do I need to go to college?” I asked my parents. My dad answered my question with a question. “Do you want to be slinging kegs of beer when you’re 50?”
I dropped the argument, and two years later found myself sitting in a journalism class. Walking across the stage to grab my high school diploma, I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today. It sure beats slinging kegs.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photographer Kyle Mills and editor Alex Zorn took home awards at the recent Colorado Press Association Convention, held in Aurora.